Eagles @ Buccaneers
Final Score: Eagles 25, Buccaneers 11
Writer: Adam Sloate (@MrAdster99 on Twitter)
The Eagles finally got that decisive win they’d been lacking over the first two weeks of the season, as they steamrolled a weak Buccaneers run defense and tacked on a couple of solid passing plays to cruise to victory. Philadelphia went right back to D’Andre Swift on the ground, who looked just as agile and explosive as last week, and chewed up yardage when Philadelphia needed it most. The Bucs went dormant offensively for several drives at a time, as the run game was practically nonexistent and the passing game only moved in fits and starts. Oh, and the Bucs had two turnovers within a few minutes at one point in the second quarter.
- A.J. Brown — A.J. “Always Open” Brown lived up to his nickname this week, finally getting that workload he was lacking in Weeks 1 and 2, thanks to tons of separation from the Bucs’ secondary. Brown was getting looks all over the field, and even had a shot at a TD, but couldn’t convert the look.
- D’Andre Swift — The game ball goes to the coolest Swift in town, who looked electric behind the Eagles’ offensive line. He found space everywhere he looked and then turned nice gains into chunk plays with a well-timed juke. Swift looks, unequivocally, to be the best RB in this offense.
- Mike Evans — Evans had a couple of tough drops sprinkled throughout the game, which you might be able to attribute to the heavy rain coming down on Raymond James Stadium during the game. Even so, Evans made a couple of terrific catches downfield, providing some rare sparks of offense that was starved for them. He was rewarded with the only TD pass of the day from Baker Mayfield.
- Rachaad White — The Buccaneers were thoroughly dominated in the trenches, especially defensively. More often than not, White was running into a wall of huge Eagles defenders, which severely hindered his production. Two of his last 3 games have ended with White averaging less than 3 yards a carry, thanks to a disgusting cocktail of bad offensive line play and mediocre running ability. White’s got the lion’s share of opportunities in this offense — and in fairness, no one looks good running behind this line, including Sean Tucker — but it’s tough to see how it leads to good fantasy production without him also finding the end zone.
- Baker Mayfield — Commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman said it (I’m paraphrasing, though) best about Mayfield’s evening: “When he’s not getting rid of the ball quickly, he’s struggling.” Baker couldn’t really get much going, and part of that was thanks to some slippery-fingered receivers, but it was also thanks to Mayfield holding onto the ball just a little too long, which allowed the big, scary Eagles men to get after him.
- Kenneth Gainwell — The flip side of D’Andre Swift‘s dominance is that KG’s status as the lead back was fairly short-lived. He got 14 carries but racked up just 43 yards on that hefty workload. Gainwell had a chance to break off a huge run late in the 4th quarter, but a shoestring tackle from Derrek Pitts turned what could’ve been a 50-yard run into a mundane 4-yard gain.
Jalen Hurts: 23/37, 277 yards, TD, 2 INT | 10 carries, 28 yards, 1 TD
The stat line isn’t incredibly pretty for Hurts but I think this is quite the step up in performance from the last few games. Hurts looked more comfortable standing in the pocket, embracing the blitz, and targeting his receivers downfield when the opportunities were presented. He was apparently dealing with “flu-like symptoms” prior to kickoff, and while this is no MJ-level performance, he looked more like the Hurts of 2022 than the Hurts of 2021 in that he wasn’t speeding through his progressions hoping to run the ball, didn’t automatically choose a receiver to throw to regardless of look (at least it didn’t look that way), and placed the ball well.
- Absolutely gorgeous throw from Hurts for his only passing touchdown of the game. Take a look at this play with Hurts and Olamide Zacchaeus:
Hurts with a laser on 3rd down for the TD ?
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 26, 2023
- The “tush push” continues to work to perfection for Hurts, much to Swift and Gainwell fantasy managers’ chagrin. That’s going to be a source of frustration all season, so long as the Eagles keep getting into the red zone and into short-yardage situations.
- Two interceptions are understandably going to give fantasy managers pause. However, the first interception was primarily due to a miscommunication between Hurts and D’Andre Swift that you don’t see very often from the Eagles:
Bucs LB Devin White picks off Jalen Hurts pic.twitter.com/2rPoTSlzPZ
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) September 26, 2023
Swift just sort of…turns the wrong way on this play and Hurts doesn’t recognize it in time. That one should be smoothed out in practice.
- The second one was not the best throw I’ve ever seen from Hurts, especially since it’s into what becomes double coverage. But Dee Delaney makes a terrific play on this ball, turning on the jets to catch up to this throw from Hurts and somehow keep his feet down to turn this from a Devonta Smith TD to a Delaney INT:
Jalen Hurts throws his 2nd INT of the game
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) September 26, 2023
D’Andre Swift: 16 carries, 130 yards | 2 targets, 1 catch, 8 yards
As I’ve alluded to above, Swift looked absolutely electric behind the blocking might of the Eagles’ offensive line. What more is there to say?
- If the offensive line is healthy and getting this kind of push, keep an eye on Eagles single-season rushing records:
How many yards are you picking up??? pic.twitter.com/eDEl5xtI0X
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) September 26, 2023
- It’s just hilarious at this point:
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) September 26, 2023
The #Eagles offensive line is positively dominant even matched against one of the league’s top run defenses.
D’Andre Swift gained 99 of his 130 yards before first contact.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) September 26, 2023
- Nitpicking: Swift never got to break out the huge chunk TD run. There were a couple of plays where he took the ball 20 or 30+ yards downfield — and even hurdled a guy — but just couldn’t find the end zone on any of his carries. That’s now two weeks where, despite Swift doing the heavy lifting between the end zones, the majority of the TD chances have gone elsewhere.
Kenneth Gainwell: 14 carries, 43 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards
KG looks like the second-best running back on this team because he fails to show the same acceleration and elusiveness that Swift shows when met with tacklers in the open field. Behind this line, Gainwell is bound to pick up yardage and a couple of catches per game, but he seems to be the “slow and steady” guy that’ll get you 3-4 yards a play with no problem. There’s just not enough home run speed in Gainwell’s profile to show that he can be the lead back when Swift is healthy.
On the bright side, though, Gainwell did get some red zone touches, including a failed 4th-down attempt (puzzling play call on 4th and 2, if we’re being honest) in the first quarter and again at the beginning of the fourth quarter. It’s going to be tough sledding for Eagles RB owners hoping for regular goal-line TDs from Swift or Gainwell, given the confusing usage of both backs in the red zone and the presence of Jalen Hurts and the “tush push” cheat code.
After seeing both KG and Swift in both bell-cow and “committee” roles, I think it is fair to say that Gainwell is someone you can keep on a fantasy bench in leagues of most sizes. Swift is a must-start, and if Swift is out, Gainwell is the guy you should be setting and forgetting.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
A.J. Brown: 14 targets, 9 receptions, 131 yards
- Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson made a special effort to get AJB involved in this game early. Hurts hit Brown on a slant over the middle that allowed Brown to use his post-catch acumen to turn in a huge chunk play, something that was common under the Shane Steichen offense last year. The easy catch-and-run AJB plays have been missing a little bit from this offensive gameplan thus far, and it seems like the Eagles have figured out that they should be using their top-10 WR a little more often:
Did the NFL make AJ Brown change his cleats? pic.twitter.com/Wg2yKE0Qhy
— DRW15 (@drw15_youtube) September 25, 2023
- A Jalen Hurts pass in the end zone hit Brown in the hands but he wasn’t able to corral it for the TD. He had a couple of red zone targets tonight, most of them good, quality targets, but just didn’t quite pan out. Thankfully for fantasy managers, the workload was there this evening to make up for some of that lost end-zone production.
DeVonta Smith: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 28 yards
Ultimately, a quiet game for Devonta tonight after his huge game against the Vikings last week, but this shouldn’t be any reason to panic. When the ball’s moving so well with Brown and Swift, it’s not a big deal when Smith isn’t involved. We had the exact inverse situation last week, when Smith had the red zone looks and the attention, and Brown had a light workload.
One minor positive: Hurts was still looking Smith’s way for big, chunk plays. Hurts’ second interception came on a Smith target, who had a good shot at a TD if Delaney fails to make that superbly athletic interception.
Dallas Goedert: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 41 yards
Normally a stalwart producer on third down, Goedert was quiet in those same situations today, leading to an unmemorable performance. His 7 targets were mostly around the line of scrimmage, and his long of 13 shows that he didn’t really have a lot of opportunities to find chunk gains.
One thing that’s been missing from the Eagles’ game plan thus far has been the TE screens they used to run for Goedert last year. They tried running that play against the Patriots and it was snuffed out each time, and since then, Goedert hasn’t gotten those looks despite them working extremely well last season. The Eagles ran a TE screen early in the game for Goedert here, and it resulted in what looked like a 1 or 2-yard gain; the Bucs snuffed that one out early as well.
Despite the slow start, I’m not looking to push the panic button on Goedert–because how many other good options are there on the waiver wire at TE?–and I think that when Jalen Hurts and Brian Johnson start to find their rhythm in the passing game, as it seems they are starting to do now, Goedert will start to find more opportunities, especially in the red zone.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baker Mayfield: 15/25, 146 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT | 1 carry, 2 yards
Baker was the latest victim of the Eagles’ fearsome pass rush. Baker was sacked twice but was constantly seeing pressure from the different members of the Philadelphia defensive line. He tried to do the late-career Ben Roethlisberger thing and dink-and-dunk the ball within a couple of seconds of the snap, and it worked to mild effect. Baker was hitting his spots just in front of the line of scrimmage, but when he tried to look downfield, the pocket wasn’t particularly clean and Baker didn’t have much time to make those connections:
It’s tough to string together drives when you’re relying on short, efficient passes. One missed pass and you’re “behind schedule” as far as getting first downs. So, only a few teams are able to make that work consistently, and it’s hard to see the Bucs doing that with big-bodied, relatively slow receivers in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. None of the Bucs receivers were able to get much separation tonight, either, which didn’t help.
- Baker and Mike Evans have shown a nice connection over the past 3 weeks. If nothing else goes well for this offense, at least Mike Evans will be there to salvage some of the more difficult Mayfield throws and turn them into solid downfield gains.
- Mike Evans giveth and Mike Evans taketh away. There were a couple of brutal drops from Bucs receivers, particularly Evans but not exclusively so, that ended drives or prohibited bigger chunk gains. It was raining pretty substantially during the game, so that might have contributed to some of the slippery fingers plays, but NFL receivers typically make those catches.
Rachaad White: 14 carries, 38 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 24 yards
As I said before, White had the absolutely brutal draw of Tampa Bay’s 23rd-ranked run block unit, per PFF, heading into this affair against Philadelphia’s top-ranked run defense. Understandably, White wasn’t able to get much going on the ground, but when the Bucs got him the ball in the air, he had a couple of nice moves and was able to shed a couple of tackles to extend plays. It’s hard to get rid of him, due to his domination of the rushing opportunities in Tampa, but at some point, you may want to look elsewhere for an upside swing, because this offense is going to have a really tough time running the football against good units.
The good news for White is that Sean Tucker is awful as a runner, too. There shouldn’t be any serious question as to whether Tucker is going to be a more effective rusher on a per-carry basis.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Mike Evans: 10 targets, 5 receptions, 60 yards, 1 TD
- Now this is art:
HOLY SHIT MIKE EVANS pic.twitter.com/EZ6GPQUspT
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) September 26, 2023
Like I said before, Evans’ point-of-catch acumen is going to save some off-kilter Baker Mayfield throws.
- Evans had a couple of tough drops sprinkled throughout the game. Without said drops, Evans’ fantasy day would have been even better. Evans is, as usual, a must-start, thanks to the heavy dose of opportunities and targets from Mayfield.
Chris Godwin: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards
As a smart reader would probably have guessed from the box score, Godwin was a non-factor in this game. He showed up for a nice play early in the game, turning upfield for a nice gain in the second quarter. Godwin actually beats James Bradberry here, who was moved into the slot to account for the long-term injury to regular slot corner Avonte Maddox. The Eagles specifically moved Bradberry into the slot because the Bucs commonly throw either Evans or Godwin into the slot to create mismatches with smaller slot corners, and Maddox’s replacement, Josh Jobe, is not the kind of guy you can trust to guard a team’s top two wideouts. It seemed like the Bucs tried to pick on Jobe a bit throughout the game but funny enough, the Bucs’ biggest plays came against Bradberry and Darius Slay, Philadelphia’s top two corners.
— ? (@bigcocklockzz) September 26, 2023
I wouldn’t be concerned about Godwin long-term, given that this game marked a season-low in receptions, targets, and reception yardage for Godwin. It’s not a particularly friendly stretch of defenses for Godwin coming up, but the Bucs must get Godwin more involved if they’re going to challenge teams through the air. It can’t only be Mike Evans.